Tuesday, January 16, 2018

'Smile Orange': A Deadly Serious Comedy

Smile Orange, a hilarious comedy done almost 40 years ago by Jamaican playwright Trevor Rhone is back and will run from July 14-24 at the newly refurbished Little Carib Theatre at the corner of White and Roberts Streets, Woodbrook.

Judged "a savage little comedy" by Sunday Telegraph, "a rolling slapstick satire" by Washington Star, the production this time around will be restaged for the first time in Trinidad by Frontline Theatre Productions in collaboration with Scarlett Project in honour of Rhone's legacy. Major sponsor for the event is bpTT.

Rhone, one of the Caribbean's most beloved writer/directors succumbed to a massive heart attack one month after receiving the National Drama Association of Trinidad and Tobago (NDATT) Caribbean Award at Queen's Hall in August 2009. Known for plays such as Old Story Tim, School's Out, Two Can Play and The Game, Rhone began his theatre career as a teacher after a three year stint at Rose Bruford College, an English drama school. In the early 70s he was part of the revival of Jamaican theatre. He participated in a local group called Theatre '77, which established "The Barn", a small theatre in Kingston, Jamaica to stage local performances.

The play, Smile Orange which was originally done in Jamaica in 1971 ran for a staggering 245 performances. This was one of Rhone's early big hits which also played three years later to packed houses at the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, then in London and later in Africa in Swahili.

For this local production, the action has been transformed and updated from the north coast of Jamaica in the 70s, to the north coast of Trinidad in the present. The mixed cast and crew have created an interesting twist to the original. Bajan director Charlotte Braithwaite alongside executive producer Nigel Scott will set the scene which takes place at Toco Beach Hotel, a third-rate establishment frequented in the most part by American tourists in the high season of December to April. The play features some of Trinidad and Tobago's exciting and dynamic theatre talent, among them Paul Pryce in the lead of Ringo; Keino Swamber as his sidekick, Joe, Arnold Goindhan as the bumbling busboy, Cyril, Stefan Simmons as the frantic Assistant Manager, Mr O'Keefe and Shannalee de Freitas as the macocious Ms Brandon.

Pryce said, "When Scott got permission to do the play, we started getting things together in November of last year. There are five main characters in the play and for most of those seven months we did things via e-mail and Skype."

According to Braithwaite despite the play's comedic flair it also has a dark side. You can see someone that you know through any of the characters, they are very real. Every Trinidadian is a storyteller. This play will make you laugh a lot. Though the character is saying something to make you laugh, they are also saying things to make you think, she said.

The show will also play in Mayaro, July 31. In keeping with their mandate of giving back to society, the producers will host a gala performance on the opening day, net proceeds from which will go to Rainbow Rescue. They have also partnered with the Tallman Foundation to expose young theatre practitioners to skills development in backstage and house management. A six day workshop will run alongside the rehearsal schedule for 16-18 young people drawn from Rainbow Rescue and Tallman Foundation.

In Smile Orange, Standard English is associated with higher, dialect with lower, social status. Skin-colour suggests parallel distinctions. Described as funny and deadly serious from the cast and crew, Smile Orange is a devastating comment on the attitudes the tourist industry can breed.

The Box office opens at the Little Carib Theatre on July 4 (12 noon -6 p.m.).